Problems of Creativity : Review of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

A review of the film Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, looking at the issues it raises with creativity.

This movie will break your heart. In a Wes Anderson, John Hughes-y kind of way.

Our lead character is Greg, the “Me” in the title trio. He’s a social skiver, hovering on the peripherals of high school hierarchies. The only things that he truly commits to are the unwatched, homemade parodies of art-house films he makes with his stoic best friend, Earl.

That is until he meets The Dying Girl, Rachel. Greg’s mother hears that she has been diagnosed with leukaemia and sends her son to Rachel’s house to pay a pity visit. The two quickly spark up a friendship, with Rachel’s comfortable presence starting to slowly wear down the barrier that Greg hides behind.

About midway through the movie, we start to get some deeper character development. After much hesitation, Greg lets Rachel watch his films (but only after Earl, high on a pot brownie, tells her about them). He’s understandably reluctant to share this side of him – it’s the first true glance that Rachel will get at what makes Greg tick, what he devotes most of himself to, and what he’s ashamedly proudest of.

Rachel loves them. So much so that one of her friends tasks Greg with making Rachel a film to help her through her chemo treatment. This small request becomes Greg’s Everest. After spending so long diluting his personality to get by at school, he now has to brazenly claim his creativity and put it to use in achieving the impossible; making his dying friend feel better.

This is a headache that grows to atomic levels, and eventually Greg implodes, conveniently around the same time that Rachel’s condition worsens. We watch as Greg screw up shoot after shoot, falling out with everyone in his orbit as he desperately tries to put something together that will get Rachel’s friends off his back, whilst not betraying himself and his creative drive.

In the end, Greg doesn’t make the film he wants to make. But he does make one. In a beautiful scene involving a hospital and a projector, we get to see Greg’s failure to reconcile his creative self with that of his social sphere in a weird, strange mess of colours and sounds.

It definitely isn’t perfect. And it definitely doesn’t fit the impossible brief. But what it does do, is show that sometimes perfect doesn’t need to be the aim of creative work. Sometimes, it’s ok to fail at being great for someone else.

Bridie Wilkinson | @bridifer |